The place where this discussion must begin is with a consideration of ordination vows-the new vows that are now replacing the old vows that ministers, elders, and deacons took at the time of their ordination. Before we enter into a consideration of the Confession of 1967 itself it must be recognized that, no matter what the confession may have in it, the relationship which that confession has to the church is determined by the vows and the terms of those vows.

The new vows that are replacing the old ones enable us to see immediately the broad sweep of the revolutionary change that is taking place. These vows do two great things. First, they abandon the Scriptures as the infallible Word of God, and second, they abandon the system of doctrine that the Holy Scriptures teach.

In recent years the ordination of a minister or an elder or a deacon has not had the importance and the honor in the life of the church that it originally had, and this trend in itself has contributed to the state we have reached in this day when vows can be changed without giving them too much consideration.

An entire chapter in the Westminster Confession of Faith is entitled, “Of Lawful Oaths and Vows.” In regard to a vow it states: “A vow is of the like nature with a promissory oath, and ought to be made with the like religious care, and to be performed with the like faithfulness. It is not to be made to any creature, but to God alone: and, that it may be accepted, it is to be made voluntarily; out of faith and conscience of duty; in way of thankfulness for mercy received; or for obtaining of what we want: whereby we more strictly bind ourselves to necessary duties; or to other things, so far and so long as they may filly conduce thereunto.”

We are familiar with marriage vows and oaths that are taken by witnesses in court, but the vows that are made by ministers and elders in the church bind them under God in the most direct and solemn way to the ministry and witness of the church. They are designed to guarantee that the church’s witness will remain from generation to generation the same. To violate these vows is sin, and in this connection paragraph III of this chapter of the Westminster Confession on oaths and vows is of great significance: “Whosoever taketh an oath ought duly to consider the weightiness of so solemn an act, and therein to avouch nothing but what he is fully persuaded is the truth. Neither may any man bind himself by oath to any thing but what is good and just, and what he believeth so to be, and what he is able and resolved to perform.”

It is in the light of this teaching that the old vows that are now being cast aside are so significant. The most important of all the vows of the Westminster Confession is, “Do you believe the Scriptures of the Old and New Testaments to be the Word of God, the only infallible rule of faith and practice?” Had all the ministers through the years believed in all honesty what this vow requires, there never would have been a movement in the church to lay it aside and to adopt a new one in its place. Commitment to this glorious truth, that the Scriptures are indeed the only infallible and inspired Word of God, forever binds the church to this special revelation-true, pure, holy. It is the unbelief that has entered into the church through the years that we shall discuss as we move along in this presentation, the unbelief that has brought about this condition, that made men take their ordination vows, as it was said, with their fingers crossed, and which Time magazine in its report on the new confession said would relieve ministers from a schizophrenic experience in pledging that which they knew they did not believe.

The second ordination vow, which had to be rejected for the same reasons, reads, “Do you sincerely receive .and adopt the Confession of Faith of this Church, as containing the system of doctrine taught in the Holy Scriptures?” Long ago many laid aside the idea that there was any such thing as a system of doctrine presented in total compass of the Holy Scriptures. An entirely different concept of the development of the Bible and of the history of the experience of the Children of Israel has been imposed upon the Bible and upon the church. We no longer have here a revelation of the one true and living God, who has indeed revealed for us His own self and given to us the knowledge that we need concerning Him, but we have an evolutionary development of the experience of a nomadic people who progressed from stage to stage in their understanding of what they considered to be religious and spiritual and God.

These two vows no longer could be honestly subscribed to, and, as the larger number of ministers in the church entered that category, naturally it was the desire that they be relieved from this contradiction and embarrassment to their conscience. Here we may observe, in accordance with what we pointed out in the introduction, that a church built upon the belief that the Bible is the infallible Word of God and that there is a system of doctrine contained in the Holy Scriptures is an entirely different church from an organization that rejects these ideas and seeks to build its ministry on another basis entirely.

These two ordination vows do not fit the new confession, and the new confession does not fit them. Either way one looks at it, the vows had to be dispensed with. Let us look now at the vows that take their place.

The one relative to the Scriptures reads: “Do you accept the Scriptures of the Old and New Testaments to be the unique and authoritative witness to Jesus Christ in the Church catholic, and by the Holy Spirit God’s word to you?”

The first radical change is that the Scriptures are no longer a rule of faith and practice, and, second, the Scriptures are no longer infallible for us all regardless of what we may think about them. They are only a “unique and authoritative witness to Jesus Christ in the Church catholic.” Thus whatever one may think about the Scriptures they are related only to Christ and can no longer be the rule of faith and practice for the church of Christ and the people of God. The word “unique,” of course, is rather vague and general. The word “authoritative” can refer to many things-law books, dictionaries, texts used in schools, etc. These phrases, however, whatever they may mean, do not describe a Book which is infallible, inspired by the Holy Ghost, inerrant, and the divine revelation that God has given to man.

Moreover, the word “belief” is removed entirely and we have the word “accept” in its place. It is clear at this point that there could be a wide variety of opinions within the church as to just what constitutes the “unique” witness, or the “authoritative” witness, and a wide variety of opinions and viewpoints could be manifest in the church concerning the person, the work, and the ministry of Jesus Christ. This is exactly the case, as we shall see when we come to the section dealing with Jesus Christ in our study of the new confession itself, especially when we look at the deliberate action in leaving out any reference to the virgin birth of Jesus Christ.

The next phrase in the question, “And by the Holy Spirit God’s word to you,” leaves the entire situation in a most uncertain position. What is it in the Holy Scriptures that is “God’s word to you”? It is clear that it is not the Holy Scriptures themselves which are accepted as God’s word to you. It is only the unique and authoritative witness to Jesus Christ that one may see in these Scriptures that would be God’s word to you. In other words, every single individual may find a different word, or there may be large groups that subscribe to different words.

That the reference to the “word” in no way means all of the Scriptures is clear in that the word is spelled with a small “w” and this is in direct contrast to the use of the capital “W” in the Westminster Confession of Faith, which is spelled out in such detail in Chapter I, “Of the Holy Scriptures.” No longer can the church be united as to what as the Word of God. It differs according to each man, to each preacher. No longer can any particular minister under ‘such vows be held to account for his faith in the Holy :scriptures. That period in church history has passed so far as the Presbyterians in the United Church are concerned. ‘A church built upon this kind of vow in relationship to this “word” (small “w”) as it relates to each separate and individual minister is an entirely different church from a one built upon the original and historic vow, which declares that the Holy Scriptures, from Genesis to Revelation written, are indeed inspired of God and the only infallible rule of faith and practice. Whether one believes or does not believe, whether one accepts or does not accept, the Scriptures stand objectively in all reality as a special divine revelation from the true and the living God. But under the new vow, the work of the Holy Spirit was not evidenced in the writing of the Book in which the written words were indeed the words of God, but now the Holy Spirit is only evidenced—and a strange Spirit He is indeed—when He reveals a little “word” to the preacher from this Book. It is at this point that a great chasm has been created between the church under the Westminster Confession and the church which now has another confession and another set of vows, as they relate to these two main considerations.

The second vow, the one that takes the place of “the system of doctrine,” reads as follows: “Will you perform the duties of a minister of the gospel in obedience to Jesus Christ, under the authority of the Scriptures, and under under the continuing instruction and guidance of the confessions this Church?”

Here are questions that arise: Who is this Jesus Christ who is now to be obeyed? Is He the Christ revealed to us infallible Scriptures, who would indeed be the one and the same? Or is He the Christ who is reconstructed by each individual man as he finds the Holy Spirit speaking God’s “word” to him? Is He the Jesus, the social reformer, the leader of the new revolution, the one who is out in the world of social strife, bringing in the kingdom of God in the new society? Just who is this Christ, and who is going to define Him for each minister?

We shall see when we get into the study of the confession that the new terminology which they say we must have to express these ideas of the twentieth century is of such a nature that it may be satisfying to every minister, even though his concepts and ideas concerning Jesus may be different from those of his fellows. It is this broad, vague, generalizing type of thinking that is necessary to cover up the contradictions and especially the lack of true faith in the Christ of the Holy Scriptures.

What is this “authority of the Scriptures” that is mentioned in the second question? Since the Scriptures are only accepted as being “the unique and authoritative witness to Jesus Christ,” what then under this vow constitutes the “authority of the Scriptures”? Again we are confronted with the fact that the nature of this authority, the extent of this authority, and the meaning of this authority, are left to each minister to decide for himself, for it is nowhere confessed or declared in the new confession, while according to the old Westminster Confession the Scriptures were inspired of God, the infallible authority, and were to be received not because of “the testimony of any man or church, but wholly upon God, (who is truth itself,) the author thereof.” Thus we have two different and widely separated views as to what constitutes the authority of the Scriptures.

Third, let us ask, What constitutes the “continuing instruction and guidance of the confessions of this Church”? It is nice indeed to be instructed by them, but these confessions which have been added to what they call the book of confessions are not binding upon the church. They may give some guidance to a minister even though they are contradictory in some places, but they are not in any way to be considered as an expression of the system of doctrine set forth in the Holy Scriptures. That is gone from the church.

Here again we are confronted with this strange complex of semantics. It sounds good. Unless this vow is set alongside of the vow which it replaces, and unless one recognizes what is meant by the “system of doctrine,” the glorious deposit of revelation which gives to us all that God has been pleased to reveal and which we would never have known unless God had given it to us, he simply is misled. The general ignorance that prevails in the church concerning these matters is a great assistance to the revolution that has now taken place.

There are other questions: What are the duties of a minister in obedience to Jesus Christ? They are nowhere defined or described, and each man, therefore, in a subjective manner, is to determine these things for himself, according to the Christ whom he has found or decided that he can serve in those portions of the Scriptures that he is ready to accept.

The unity of the church in the truth, the oneness of the church in Christ, have here been forever destroyed. They may talk of unity, they may speak of oneness, but it is only a verbal phenomenon because there are too many contradicting christs who are being followed by the company that now calls itself United Presbyterians under the new confession of 1967.

These new ordination vows are a formula for inclusivism. There is a design here to give every man comfort in his unbelief or the measure of subscription which he feels that he may be able to give. No longer do we have a written creed where words mean exactly what they are generally :understood to mean. Unbelief has really wrought mischief in this church.

In Chapter XXII of the Westminster Confession, “Of Lawful Oaths and Vows,” we are told, “An oath is to be taken in the plain and common sense of the words, without equivocation or mental reservation.”

The vows of the new confession allow for all manner of equivocation and for a great many mental reservations. Now the liberals may be comfortable in their varying degrees of unbelief and opinions. The new vows encompass them all.

Instead of going out and organizing a new church with an entirely new set of ordination vows and a new confession, and building that church from the ground up, a group of liberals, or modernists as they have been called, infiltrated the church, carried on a campaign through the years which enlarged their company and brought about within the circumference of the church an entirely changed attitude toward the Bible, toward Jesus Christ, and toward the doctrines. They, therefore, have been instrumental in changing the doctrines, changing the ordination vows, changing Jesus Christ, the Head of the church. They have done a thorough and complete job, and those who originally were in the church and had a witness faithful to the Scriptures and to the Christ of the Bible have found themselves either outside of the church or having the entire church changed so that they could not honestly remain in it and be true to the Christ of the Scriptures and to their confession that the Bible is indeed the only infallible rule of faith and practice.

Thus instead of the liberals starting a church and building from the beginning, they have captured the old church, made it over into a house of their own liking, and those who have every rightful claim to its heritage and its institutions and wealth are forced in conscience and obedience to the Christ of the Scriptures to go out and start a new church or a continuing church with the old confession and the old ordination vows.

This is revolution, and the strategy, we may say, that has been so successful in the ecclesiastical world is now being carried out in the political world, as the socialists and Communists move in to destroy free societies and the right and the place of the individual in those societies to be a good steward and to worship the living God. There are indeed parallels between the ecclesiastical struggle that has resulted in victory for the liberals and the modernists, and the political struggle in which the Communists and the socialists are moving rapidly toward a victorious conquest. And even the new Confession of 1967 in its action provisions is designed to help the cause of world-wide socialism as we shall see when we discuss that section of the new confession.

Ordination vows also involve a contract. By means of vows one generation passes on to the next generation the testimony of its faith and a church which they have built and maintained. By means of vows people give their money and leave their legacies to a church, believing that the faith is protected and that their means will advance the faith in which they have believed and which they have sought to honor with their lives when they were on the earth serving the Lord. This great contract is now broken.

There is a proper sense in which all the property of the United Presbyterian Church, built and gathered under the ordination vows which committed the church to the Bible as the infallible Word of God and to a system of doctrine, properly and rightfully belongs to that element which still professes the same faith. Why should the unbelievers and the modernists be allowed to take possession of all this wealth and use it now for the building of an entirely different kind of church and with an entirely different goal and program?

At this point there will develop a great deal of confusion. It is inherent in the situation that has been produced. Will all the ministers of the church be required to take the new ordination vows? And can the ministers who have taken the older set of vows be required now to take the new set of vows? Are the vows under which they were ordained and made ministers now to be formally abandoned and a new set taken by them? Or will these new vows be taken only by the clergymen who enter the denomination after 1967? Should not all the ministers of the church be bound by the same set of vows, or will it take a number of years until all those who took the old vows have passed on before the church will be united in its allegiance to the present vows of the 1967 reorganization? Will the action of the General Assembly in finally amending the constitution and formally instituting the new vows and the new creed automatically mean that all are under the new whether they take it verbally or not? Just how is this to be implemented?

A still more serious question attends this condition—the ordination question that asks that the ministers find continuing instruction and guidance from the confessions of this church is an open-ended vow. Everyone is here promising that he will also find instruction and guidance out of the confession of 1970 or 1990, if he lives that long, and the church restates its faith Ls it has promised as a part of its growing and expanding experience as outlined in the Confession of 1967. In this vow ministers are promising that they will take guidance and instruction from something that does not exist and that they themselves have never even had an opportunity to study.

Men, of course, have been living under the Westminster Confession and not believing it, and if conscience has troubled them from time to time, they will not have too much difficulty with the varying shades that may be manifest in such problems as these which are now being raised. But men who truly believe the Bible to be the Word of God and still confess that there is a revealed system of doctrine holy, clean, pure, and righteous-are the men who will indeed find themselves in the greatest of difficulty before God. Even the chapter of the Westminster Confession on oaths and vows contains in it a section which can be most uncomfortable: “No man may vow to do any thing forbidden in the Word of God, or what would hinder any duty therein commanded, or which is not in his own power, and for the performance whereof he hath no promise or ability from God. In which respects, popish monastical vows of perpetual single life, professed poverty, and regular obedience, are so far from being degrees of higher perfection, that they are superstitious and sinful snares, in which no man may entangle himself.” Yet, here they are entangled in a vow that commits them to future confessions as yet unknown, because the church decides to change so as to need a Confession of 1990.

Are these new vows, therefore, not in this category of being superstitious and sinful snares? How can a man who truly believes the two vows that are being rejected subscribe to the two new vows that are supposed to take their place? If the first two are honorable and true and have been taken before God, how can they be laid aside by honest men who truly believe what they vowed and confessed that they believed? Can the General Assembly impose by these new vows this unbelief upon all the ministers of the church?

Where is the man who will arise and say that he cannot conscientiously take these new vows since he is already committed to the original ones and he still believes them to be true? Is there any action anywhere that discharges him from the obligations he took before God when he made those vows? At this point we run into great questions indeed concerning morality and righteousness and truth and honor before God, as men believe God, and in doing so believe that He has given us an infallible and inerrant Word which is the Scriptures of the Old and the New Testaments. If the church were not being changed there would be no need for new vows.

Before we move on, there is still another factor that presents itself in relationship to these vows which is of the greatest moment. There are several vows that are not changed. They are continued. These are vows that relate to the church, not to the Bible or to the system of doctrine. Here are two that belong together: “Do you approve of the government and discipline of the United Presbyterian Church in the United States of America?” “Do you promise subjection to your brethren in the Lord?”

These vows have a long history within the church, and during the trials of the members of The Independent Board for Presbyterian Foreign Missions in the 1930’s they came to have an entirely different meaning and they gave to the church authority over men’s conscience which has now been established in the law of the church. I discuss this at great length in the chapter dealing with The Independent Board Trials, Chapter 18.

Approving of the government and discipline of the church gave the General Assembly the right to define an offense and to order ministers to be put on trial. Since the Bible has now been removed as the only infallible rule of faith and practice, the church rises in its authority to be the power that will preserve its unity and its discipline. When once the authority of Scripture as an infallible rule is laid aside, the authority of the church arises with greater sanctity. Indeed the church usurps power for itself in virtue of its own authority-power which in the Scriptures belongs only to the Head of the Church, the Lord Jesus Christ, and which must be administered in accordance with the infallible revelation of the Holy Scriptures. Historically, the power of the church has only been ministerial and declarative, but now, in the process of usurpation and centralization of power in the church by the General Assembly which has been evolving in this century, the church speaks mote in her own name and her word is church law.

Subjection to your “brethren in the Lord,” which one always thought meant subjection to your brethren as long as they counseled you in accordance with the Word of God, was interpreted in The Independent Board Mandate of 1934 and the trials which followed to mean that you had to be in subjection to your brethren when they told you to do anything because they were in the Lord in that command, whether you accepted it or not. This made the majority in an Assembly lord over men’s consciences. Subjection to your brethren in the Lord involved a blind obedience to what the General Assembly commanded men to do. This is exactly what happens when churches break away from the authority-the infallible authority-of the Holy Scriptures. The new ordination vows have in them, of course, this shift. One can see it there when he studies the developments of these past three decades. But all of this, we may say, is shifting the church over into a realm and a concept of authority that is more akin to that which had long been established in the Roman Catholic hierarchy. In a genuine and true sense the Protestant Reformation at this point is rejected as it relates to the submission of the church to the infallible rule of the Holy Scriptures. And now the church arises in her power and glory as she restates and reinterprets her faith for different periods, out of different experiences, to find in herself a glory which has come out of her tend and her leadership rather than out of the Holy Scriptures. Indeed, the Scriptures tell us that no flesh is to glory in His presence.

This major shift in power prepares the church for ultimate reunion with the Roman Catholic Church. Church power is now supreme, above the Scriptures, rather than the Scriptures being above the churches.